JAZZ and Soul Legends Honored at Berklee, 2014
Biographies provided by the Berklee College of Music
Geri Allen is a pianist, composer, educator, and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. Over her expansive career, the Detroit native released nearly 20 albums as a leader, and worked with Ornette Coleman, Betty Carter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Belgrave, Jimmy Cobb, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motion.
The first recipient of the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for jazz, Allen was also the first woman and youngest ever recipient of the Danish Jazzpar Prize. Her work has been featured in the Peabody-winning film Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, on Carrington's Grammy-winning album The Mosaic Project, and Andy Bey's Grammy-nominated album American Song.
She was recently commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to compose a piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. In 2013, Allen returned to her alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, to serve as Director of Jazz Studies.
She continues to tour with the Geri Allen Trio and her tap quartet, Timeline.
If you "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" visit the Motemamusic Channel for her jazz piano rendition of Michael Jackson's classic.
Valerie Simpson is half of the songwriting, production, and performing entity formerly known as Ashford and Simpson. With her late husband Nick Ashford, she co-wrote and produced numerous pop and soul hits for music legends such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, and Chaka Khan, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "You're All I Need to Get By," "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," and "I'm Every Woman," to name just a few.
As performers, Ashford and Simpson's best known songs include "Solid (As a Rock)" and "Found a Cure." The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Simpson recently released her first solo album, 2012's Dinosaurs Are Coming Back, and was featured on Oprah's Next Chapter.
As a member of the ASCAP Foundation Board, she established the Reach Out and Touch Award, which honors Ashford and helps advance the careers of promising young songwriters. She also owns and runs the Sugar Bar, a popular restaurant and music venue on New York's Upper West Side. Four Ashford and Simpson songs are currently featured in the Broadway hit Motown the Musical. Valerie's website announces her new record.
Motown writer and drummer, Drew Schultz, will be publishing an extensive article on Valerie Simpson in another post.
Thara Memory is a trumpeter, composer, and teacher who has earned the reputation as one of the finest musicians and music educators in Portland, Oregon, his home for over 40 years. Born in Tampa and raised in Eatonville, Florida, he has played with Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, Natalie Cole, the Four Tops, and Stanley Turrentine, among others.
In 2005, he founded the American Music Program, a youth jazz orchestra that has won national accolades. He shares a 2013 Grammy Award with his former student, Berklee alumna Esperanza Spalding, for his arrangement of the track "City of Roses" from her album Radio Music Society. Students from the American Music Program back Spalding on the track and also appear in the song's music video.
Memory was named the Jazz Society of Oregon's Musician of the Year in 2006, inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and was honored as Portland Jazz Master at the 2012 Portland Jazz Festival.